Being with my oldest niece this week has been a wonderful experience. Phoebe is 15 years old and for any girl, that is an age that is usually full of turmoil. This kiddo has been through a lot. I try to show her the side of life that is positive and the result of people embracing positive actions, no matter their circumstances.
We began our day at the voting booth for the primaries. When my own children were young, they always went with me to vote and there would usually be a "mock" booth ready for minors to have voting run-through so they could see what it is like to vote. Only, their candidates would be Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck. I loved these mock booths because it gave kids a chance to learn how easy it is to vote, to see how important your vote can be and to feel comfortable voting.
As I took Phoebe with me to vote this week, I asked the voting administration if they still had those mock voting booths available and the man got a good heavy laugh rolling and said, "Noooo, We haven't had those around since the days of voting with chads."
So, Phoebe was able to walk over to the voting booth with me and we went through each selection, but it got REALLY interesting when the propositions came along. Her family is politically involved enough for her to understand each proposition and that's when the dial spinning at the voting booth became exciting and very important to her 15 year old mind. After I submitted my ballot, I told her that she'd soon be able to stand there and make her voice heard in a way that's more powerful than just complaining about who is elected.
Phoebe said she'd never gone with one of her parents to vote and it was interesting to see it up close and personal. It made it even more thrilling as we were walking into and out of the voting area and would hear people screaming for us to "VOTE FOR..." and they were the opposite candidate I would be casting a ballot for. Phoebe found that to be fascinating, almost as if she felt guilty as we left because she knew we didn't vote for the candidate that screaming woman wanted to get elected.
After voting, we drove to the odd little cemetery that is in our town. It's tucked out of the way and is the most eclectic, interesting cemetery I'll probably ever see in my lifetime...I wanted to share it with Phoebe.
This cemetery has people buried from about 200 years ago. It's small, already closed off to selling new plots, so the only fresh graves will be for those people who have previously purchased their plot.
Old trees grew all throughout the graveyard. During the day, this place is peaceful and even beautiful. However, at night, the draping trees, the wind blowing and causing the wind chimes throughout the cemetery to sound off, the little mini-fan-mills are whirling and it seems other worldly.
My sweet niece was automatically bothered by all the unkempt grave sites, especially ones like this one, buried to the point of nearly being completely engulfed by sod. She took the time beneath the hot sun to pull back the weeds, and in spite of the ant pile, she continued to pull away rogue runners until she could at least get the name and date of birth to show.
For several minutes she worked on the above gravesite and took it from being nearly concealed to becoming a clear grave-marker.
Many gravesides have seating at the end of the plot, as if the families enjoy coming to the grave for a long visit, maybe to sit and talk...to feel connected. We loved this bench that had cowboy boots for supports.
Sadly, this graveyard is full of gravesites that do not have regular stone markers. This gravesite is one of the rare few that allow anything you choose to be the headstone. The picture above is wood cut out with a jig-saw, the wood has been painted and the young mother who died had her name painted across the banner that the angel is holding. It's clear the family lost their angel. Two regular patio stones lay in front of the wood headstone, which is becoming quite weathered.
Some of the gravesites are so old that they are falling apart. After Deputy Dave saw this picture, he felt eager to get out there and reset the stone properly. Phoebe respectfully kneels down to give her attention to the person belonging to the stone and we were both surprised to read the year they were born...long ago.
Born 170 years ago in 1842 and buried in 1897...in the ground for approximately 115 years already!
The cemetery history lessons kept coming as we felt honored to stand next to this marker that honored a man who served in the Spanish American War!
I read it and thought about how true that statement is, to all of us. Then, I stepped over to read the second stone of his wife who died ten years later and her marker read, "Only what's done with love will last."
"Only one life that soon is past, Only what's done with love will last." ---- Beautiful.
Oh my gosh, each headstone had an independent message, but once the husband and wife were buried next to each other, each phrase connected to make a beautiful, poignant message.
How about old Arnold here who wants to be remember by visitors as having a good poker hand. He made me laugh out loud.
My heart always felt heavy for the families that had to build and decorate their own plots, yet these seem to hold more significance over the regular "store-bought" markers. This cement cross is for a 17 year old kiddo and I love that someone put cars all over his plot. He must have loved cars. Of course he would've, he was 17.
Phoebe paused to take a good look at this grave, designed by a family for their child. The wood base has vinyl stickers that seem to be enduring. The baby lived one day. I think this is one of the most precious graves I've seen for a child.
More fallen grave stones and two huge encasements that are oddly tilting into the earth.
Here's another home-made headstone for a young mother --- the children were allowed to put their bright handprints all over the cross. Beautifully done, with great significance to the child, I am sure.
I found this beautiful marker to have a fitting poem on the back of the stone. Read it if you can. It belongs to a baby who died after living for a few short weeks. There's a picture of the baby on the front of the stone and she is adorable, even with the hospital tubes and attachments sticking out everywhere.
As for last statements made on a headstone, this was one of Phoebe's favorites.
This next gravesite stopped us in our tracks. It was very clear that a Native American is buried at this location. There are dream catchers placed at the foot and the head of the grave. The engravings and picture on the headstone are paying respect to Native American icons. Phoebe felt very somber and drawn to this site. We stayed here for a while. My niece is more than 50% Native American, mostly from the Shoshone tribe, the same tribe that the famous "Sacagawea" belonged to.
Phoebe is mesmerized by Native American relics and tributes, as am I. We discussed the importance of studying and honoring our Native American heritage. But, this girl has a big dose of it. Her birth mother came from a tribe...the government came to her reservation and decided there were too many children with not enough tribes-people to care for them properly, so Phoebe's mother and brother, at five years of age, were removed and adopted out to a rich white couple in Houston. Things didn't go exactly as planned. A few years ago, the brother was shot and killed in Houston during a drive-by shooting and Phoebe's mother was not able to maintain her parenting role, so her step-mother eventually adopted her. Regardless, Phoebe has her heritage to remember and to honor. She's a very special niece to me.
Onward we went, until we came upon this site that indicated the old guy had served in Korea and had been a Prisoner of War. We thanked Al for his above and beyond service as we walked away.
Another customized "headstone" made by a family with an indent in the concrete to hold a bottle. We couldnt' tell what was in the bottle cause the label was partly missing. But, the sad part of the headstone were all the hand prints with carved names of those saying good-bye to the one they lost.
Now, here's the oddity of the graveyard. I guess every cemetery has its own. So many possibilities behind this stone, but I sure would like to get the real story about the message on the headstone. I am thinking of calling the city next week. I'll let you know if I find out anything.
Some markers are so old that the engraving has eroded to the point of being a mystery.
Phoebe tries, she hates to give up, but these stones are impossible to read.
This headstone and one other in the graveyard used the same line of poetry...the other stone (not shown) with this phrase engraved on it had lost his wife and child, during childbirth. It is clear from the size of that particular headstone and by the excessive engravings that the husband and father probably grieved himself terribly --- I don't have a photo of that huge headstone, but it has been there since 1909. However, this little one below says the same thing as the husband's tribute on the large marker,
"When she had passed, it seemed like the ceasing of exquisite music."
Yes, after that one, I let go of a couple of tears. To know that kind of love is to find fulfillment.
And this was only part of our day together. Phoebe and I went on several excursions...each one provoking deep thought and interesting conversation.
It's doubtful that she'll ever see another cemetery such as this one...a cemetery where love itself is palpable.